None = Unmissable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme
Baobabs Don't Grow Here Anymore (page 111)
Venue Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14)
Address 5/2 Bristo Square
Reviewer Thelma Good
Devised by James Cunningham and Helen Iskanders the performers, with Sylvaine Strike this Fresco Theatre production comes from South Africa and tells the story of a man and his wife and their search for the Baobabs trees which flower for one day, flowers famed for giving fertility. To find the trees they have to leave South Afirca and journey right up Africa to the Sarah dessert, encountering difficulties and the peoples of Africa on the way. Travelling by train and bus, using a variety of props in inventive ways, this show nearly becomes wholly wonderful, but it needs just a little more tightening to be that.
It does have some terrific scenes, it's clear getting of a train in Africa is fraught with dangers, and the difficult, tempetous love between the couple is humorously conveyed. But there is just too much in this tale, striking and moving though some of the scenes are it. Feeling like a tale which cannot make up its mind whether it is for all ages or just for an adult audience, it verges all too close to the edge of whimsy as it tries to soften the harder, painful parts of the story. Slightly too long by about 10 minutes, it does let you in to the great diverse continent we used to call Darkest Africa.
© Thelma Good 21 August 2002 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs until 26 August
Company - Fresco Theatre
Beasts of Holm (page 111 )
Drams None required
Venue Venue 13 (Venue 13 )
Address Lochend Close off Canongate
Reviewer Thelma Good
It begins as a picture of domestic bliss as a young woman sings to her toddler son in Gaelic and speaking to him too as she goes about her daily tasks. In front of her domestic surroundings, in Jessica Worrall's atmospheric set divided diagonally, is a white sand beach with some boulders, the beach at Bragar in Lewis. Behind, forming the back of the set, is a huge off-white drape, sometimes representing the whitewashed walls of her crofthouse, and later used with powerful dramatic effect. It's 1918 New Year's Eve and Catriona is waiting for the return of her father and her sweetheart from the trenches and dangers of the first World War.
Moving from Gaelic to English Mairi Morrison's script is beautifully crafted, Mairi Morrison as Catriona shines with her love and her anticipation as she goes down to the beach to watch HMY Iolaire as it carries her loved ones home. But it is a windy wild night and the Beasts of Holm, rocks lying off shore wait too for the ships to past or in as this case to meet them. Agonised she watches as the ship disappears and later the waves bring home the returning men, 205 of the 300 aboard were drowned. It's a great piece this, the acting by Mairi Morrison, directed by John Binnie is a fine a tribute to the havoc and pain loss wrought in those left behind. Both production and script has clear quality etched right through it.
If anyone is looking for a show to take up, this is one that will live in the mind, warm and chill the soul whether you come from the Islands, visit them or just love a production well conceived and executed. I award it a Good's Great Award and hope that I will see it touring out with Edinburgh in the future. It is as strong, striking and beautiful as Lewis where Mairi herself comes from.
© Thelma Good 22 August 2002 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs until 24 August at various times
Company - Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Dance
Beautiful Thing (page 112)
Venue Rocket @ South Bridge Resource Centre
Address Infirmary Street, off South Bridge
Reviewer Kenny Morrison
Jonathan Harvey's now cult play returns to the Fringe after receiving much critical acclaim in 1998. The young cast give a mixed but, on the whole, enjoyable performance. Leah, Soraya Chandiramani, is excellent throughout and her drug induced, hallucinogenic portrayal of Mama Cass is the highlight of a very distinguished performance. Alice Rivett-Carnac's Sandra is pure Bianca, and well finished, rarely dropping much lower than a screech for most of the play, she is irritating, but only as she must be, and portrays the sensitive mother towards the end with a believable turn-around. The boys are weaker but still fine. Alfie Boyd is a little too posh for Ste and Nick Day had a hard job in portraying the stoned Tony. Mike Murray plays Jamie with admirable guts and is a perfect hormone riddled adolescent boy.
The set is basic, and wobbly, which is particularly evident when exposed by the somewhat unadventurous bright lighting. A little more care should be taken to avoid unused parts of the set being visible in the wrong scenes, which proves distracting to the action. The music used in Beautiful Thing is always a hit, and the timing of the songs adds much to the dialogue.
Ultimately a strong, but flawed, piece, with good performances but with a generally uninspiring look. For fans of the film it is definitely worth the trip.
© Kenny Morrison 5 August 2002
Bedhead (page 112)
Venue C Venue (Venue 34)
Address Chambers Street
Reviewer Daniel Winterstein
Trusting the Edinburgh weather is risky. Jumping off cliffs is risky. But neither of these are as risky as devised plays. Bedhead is a devised play. It has dream sequences. The press release says it is a comedy, and indeed I laughed a number of times. Possibly this number was two.
Sim is an obnoxious over-sexed 20 something. Mark is his hopeless romantic (pathetic) friend. Alex is their pretty new flatmate, and Richard is the boyfriend who's not good enough for her, which we infer from him wearing a beanie and speaking with a regional accent. They drink a lot, crawl into and out of bed, and that's it, repeated ad nauseam.
Bedhead does have a clever set, and the best parts of the play involve showing this off; the cast are upstaged by the stage. And it might appeal to the characters portrayed (except those with regional accents).
Runs until 24th August, even dates only. 6:45pm. £7.50 (£6.50)
© Daniel Winterstein, 6th August 2002
Black Light Theatre of Prague Presents Gulliver (page 112)
Drams half for those of an age Ė coke for those who arenít!
Venue Pleasance Courtyard & Over the Road (Venue 33)
Address 60 The Pleasance
Reviewer Annabel Ingram
We all need a little escapism in our lives, particularly during the insanity of the festival, so get yourself along to this show for all ages and experience the magic. Gulliverís travels is a story familiar to us given new twists here by this hard working and inventive company. Black Light theatre uses a combination of techniques such as projections, flying, props handled by actors Ďhiddení all in black and live music to create a number of illusions.
We witness Gulliver sailing on the high seas, then shipwrecked in a harrowing storm. Once landed in Brobdingnag we share his terror and amusement at being tiny compared to everyone else, juggling dice and using string for a tightrope. Then in Lilliput we see the Lilliputians fear and awe at Gulliverís enormous size as he proceeds to eat the annual crops for the kingdom! The story is told through flashback once Gulliver is incarcerated and interrogated for his wild claims.Gulliver here is presented as a prophet-type figure akin to Joan of Arc or Gallileo Gallilee, a returner from a new world, chastised and derided by his peers for his seemingly fantastic story; a truth they are not ready to handle. Like a Grimm fairy tale, there is a dark side to the tale in Gulliverís treatment at the hands of his superiors but not so dark as to upset the children in the audience. I saw this in preview when I found the pace a little slow but with the run lasting the entire length of the festival there is plenty of time for this eloquent story to sharpen up.
Company- Ta Fantastika Black Light Theatre of Prague www.tafantastika.cz/index.html
Runs until 26 August @ 5.30pm not 7 or 20 © Annabel Ingram 1 August 2002
Blue (page 113)
The Blue Orphan (page 113)
Drams None, it is as good as a month on a Buddhist retreat
Venue Traverse Theatre (15)
Address Cambridge St, off Lothian Road
Review Jackie Fletcher
This is Music Theatre, operatic in its execution but utterly unpretentious in its moving tales of the lives of folk barely surviving in life.† Its stage imagery is beautiful, the pacing confidently languorous and the performers are close to perfection.† Composer, writer, director and performer Jonathan Christenson is obviously a renaissance man of considerable talent who modestly pays tribute to the writers that inspired him in his programme notes.† This is the essence of its success.†
While it is grandly conceived it is modestly epic. The array of disparate characters, eking out an existence at the bottom of the social ladder are utterly loveable.† They imbue us with sadness, but they have dreams.† Mostly they express themselves through monologues, the text ranging from the poetic to everyday speech.† When they come together, their kindness towards each other is touching.† There is hope for humanity.† Their stories are linked by a young man, emerging for the first time from an orphanage run by Sister Parnel, a character that satirises the excesses of opera in a performance of superb comic melodrama.† Christenson has injected laughter into what is essentially a reflection on the human condition.†
The costumes range delightfully from the surreally bizarre to the everyday, always apt and re-enforcing the central imagery.† I fell utterly in love with the costumes. This central image is the Brazilian butterfly, the Blue Orphan, reputed to have been able to sing, but hunted to the point of extinction by collectors.† This is a fine metaphor: the ugly pupa emerges from its chrysalis as a thing of beauty, flying free and singing in joy.† And isn't this something we all yearn for?† This is a piece of theatre created through profound reflection, and with love for humankind.† It is aesthetically delightful and leaves us with thought-provoking images, images that will stay with you and touch you in years to come.† And uppermost, it transcends the sadness to leave you with hope.† A beautiful experience that suspends you in space, with the hurly-burly of life going on outside, and to which you must inevitably return, but renewed.† Exactly what theatre should be doing in the 21st century.
Runs 16, 21 Aug (20.30) 17, 22 Aug (11.00) 18, 23 Aug (14.45) 20, 24 Aug (17.30)
© Jackie Fletcher 15 August 2002
Body Celebration of the Machine (page 133)
Venue Gilded Balloon Teviot (14)
Address 5/2 Teviot Square
Reviewer Jackie Fletcher
Im told that this multi-media, one-woman show has been nominated for a fringe first award, and it certainly deserves it for the scope of imagination and theatrical invention that has gone into its devising. Amanda Owens great strengths lie in her strong, supple body and the charisma with which she builds up a rapport with her audience. There is humour too. Womens humour, like when she goes into a shop that sells spare body parts and is told that she cant buy a penis because shes female, and that she cant purchase two spare clitorises even if she promises not to use them both at the same time. A couple of sequences could have been cut, but her acrobatic movements are a superb celebration of the body. The end is surprising, moving and beautiful.
Until 26 Aug (not12, 19)
© Jackie Fletcher
Born African (page 114)
Venue Augustines (Venue 152)
Address George the IV Bridge
Reviewer Thelma Good
Blacking up isn't done these days but in Born African all three of the cast are made up like Al Jolson. The white lips and eye sockets make their faces much more strongly defined and a slight drop of the lips conveys deep sadness, where on the conventional made-up face we may not notice anything. It is played in an open, joyful style where the actors come close, sing and connect with us. It doesn't need to be performed in a conventional theatre, indeed I kept on feeling I was in a hot dusty African Market place, sitting on some steps watching the actors below. Arising from improvisation this play has some very short scenes so a stustained atmosphere of emotion never grows and builds, I would have like just a degree more of intensity.
Three actors Wiina Msamati, Craig Peter and Adam Neil, populate this play with the varied mix of white, black and assortment who call Africa their homeland. Taking 3 or 4 characters each they bring the heat, the challenges and the heartache of being not just African but also a human today. Constance is the character who stayed with me the most, Wiina Msamati gives a strong dignity to the faithfull family maid who is always there, accepting life's knocks. Funny and troubling are the scenes from Matthew's childhood where he and his two friends, one of each type try to relate in a world where everyone know what shade you are and it matters. Who you are and do you belong are things we humans worry about, it's good to see these worries from a different angle. Over The Edge Theatre Company lets you think while being entertained.
on 5, 7, 11, 14, 16, 18, 21, 23,25 August at 19:45pm
© Thelma Good 11 August 2002
Company- Over The Edge Theatre Company
Brenda Cochrane - Just for Joe (page 114)
Venue Gilded Balloon Teviout Wine Bar (14)
Address Bristo Square
Reviewer Max Blinkhorn
What a voice! Imagine Vonda Shepherd, Arethra Franklin and Eva Cassidy rolled into one and that's Brenda Cochrane. Sure, youve heard of her! She won Opportunity Knocks. She's had some success in the States and most recently shes been in the London production of "Chicago". Incredibly, her name hasn't registered in the UK.
I know, I know! I'm supposed to be giving you a critical assessment of her one-woman show, "Just for Joe" but there's nothing to be critical of. Just for Joe is a mix of dramatised life story and music. It's nothing innovative; on stage there's just a dressing room table and chair, a few props and a couple of spangly outfits hanging. As Brenda prepares for an imaginary show, she tells her story, blending in songs from the sixties and seventies and the traditional ballads of her youth. There's energy in these songs, but Brenda puts in that extra ingredient and you can feel the audience - not the usual Edinburgh crowd - straining at the leash. "Burn! Baby Burn!" They want to dance! But they don't hey are transfixed by her presence on stage.
"Just For Joe" has been devised by Brenda and Elaine C. Smith but this is Brenda Cochrane's show. She's not some marketing creation; she's not a bimbo with a shelf life shorter than a box of corn flakes. She is the singer with the voice that rings everyone's inner bell. Go and see or miss out!
© Max Blinkhorn, 4 August 2002
Bright Colours Only (page 113)
Venue Assembly (Venue 3)
Address 54 George St
Reviewer Thelma Good
It's the first time as an audience member I've ever been thanked for coming and kissed by the actor at the start of her performance. Pauline Goldsmith greets everyone of us as we cram into a small space with a three-piece suite, sundry furniture, a spread of sandwiches, tea, drams of whisky and a coffin along the back
We get into the mood very quickly, asking each other if we knew him well, helping each other to refreshments and generally finding that strange half celebration, half shaken state you're in after someone you knew remotely dies.
If you want to be really comfy sit on the 3-peice suite, otherwise after a few minutes you will get to look down from her extra seating revealed behind one of the temporary walls of the room. What follows is a strange, humorous journey with the performer into some of her family - it's her Grandfather Eddie's we are greeted after, his granddaughter having taken on the wake no onelse wanted to do. Her relations appear sometimes by her vivid vignette acting, sometimes by charming naive style computer generated cartoons. Her Aunty Annie's blighted love for the man who gives her the key to his heart, Granny whose's "awful sore down there" are touching too, and soon tears pick and flow down some of the audiences' faces. We laugh partly because of the fear death brings but also because she tells things in such an Irish way. Her deadpan delivery working so well as she takes into the niceties of coffin attire and the need for natural fibres if you're going up a chimney!
Do have a sandwich and some whisky they are delicious, and attend to what she reveals about life and all surrounding death, I memorably know lots about embalming and what the handles on coffins aren't for. It is a lovely solo performance embracing, moving and warming the audience, as wakes should, only the very last moments didn't work, hence the one dram.
Runs to 26 August not Mondays
Arches Theatre Company
© Thelma Good 08 August 2002
Brimstone and Treacle (page 114)
Venue Rocket and St John's Hall (Venue 126)
Address West End, Princes Street
Reviewer Ksenija Horvat
Dennis Potter was an outstanding author, a keen observer of darker side of
human nature, and the sharpest wit. One would think that no one is able to dull
the edge of his pen. One should think again.
Though Potters witty lines trigger off a few giggles, his dark irony
is all but lost. At the end, one cannot but feel sorry for the cast, who did
not come out to take their bows. Perhaps this could have been a better show
if directed in a different way. Perhaps not. Unfortunately, we will never know.